Leaders in school districts across Lancaster County are delivering a message consistent with our post last week: Voter referendums on property taxes would be devastating for schools. I want you to know our school board is speaking out on behalf of Conestoga Valley.
Details are emerging from Harrisburg about parts of a budget agreement that could finally provide Pennsylvania with a budget. It calls for an increase in the state sales tax with the additional revenues going to school districts and property tax relief.
But there is a catch: Some lawmakers are pushing for a “backend referendum requirement” that would prevent local school boards from raising taxes without voter approval in a referendum. The reality: A backend referendum requirement would devastate school districts.
Wednesday, the state Department of Education released the 2015 School Performance Profile scores for Pennsylvania high schools. Conestoga Valley High School received a score of 83, down nine points from a year ago, but it is important to put that score in context. The state uses multiple measures to assign the scores—which is good—but also creates some volatility.
Last year, Conestoga Valley was forced to cancel a significant professional development opportunity for several of our teachers. Why? Not enough substitutes. You may have heard about the substitute shortage. This issue has been a consistent one at the superintendent’s level and one we have shared with our elected officials in Harrisburg.
So what are we doing about it?
The conversation about our district’s new personnel partnership with School Operations Services of Lancaster (SOSL) is ongoing. Today, I welcome school board president Mr. John Smucker to share our board’s perspective.
As you all know, in May the board voted to create a personnel partnership with SOSL to provide support services to the students and staff at CV. Those services included teacher aides, custodial staff and food service staff. All of the employees affected were offered the same job they held with CV at the same pay. The partnership did change the benefits that the affected staff received, and the board was aware that this may cause some of the staff to pursue work in other organizations.
UPDATE: The PA Treasury Department announced a day after I posted this that it will not make any payments to charter schools using dollars that are normally sent to public school districts until it reviews the legality of diverting those funds. The Wolf Administration maintains state law requires the diversions. Stay tuned.
It looks like Pennsylvania will go at least one-third of this year without a budget. This disappointing reality is, obviously, impacting school districts—to whom the state has billions of dollars in obligations. While we remain pawns in a political chess match, the state is taking unusual, and perhaps unlawful, measures to ensure a specific group of schools get their funding. Why?
We have been made aware of a rumor circulating that community acquired MRSA (CA-MRSA), a type of staph infection, is spreading among CV athletes. This is not true. There is no need for alarm.
Last week, the Pennsylvania Senate Finance Committee approved Senate Bill 909 and sent it to the full Senate for consideration. This bill has not received much media attention, but it would dramatically change the way Pennsylvania schools operate—and not, in my judgment, for the better.
Pope Francis said recently in NYC, “Pain can show us the capacity for goodness the human being is also capable of.” I think that has been true of our CV community in this difficult first month of school. In these challenging situations, we always come together for the greater good to be part of the solution without second guesses or argument.
I have been asked a number of times about the impact that the state budget impasse is having on Conestoga Valley School District. The short answer is not a lot—for now. But our time window is closing.